Walking the Camino in May
SPAIN Travel & Trails

Walking the Camino in May – A journey from Leon to Santiago


Making Plans:

There is something about the Camino that seems to pull you back in.  Last October 2016, we did a short portion of the Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona.  If you want to read about our time there, you can click here.

We came back from our trip, missing the routine, the simplicity, the fresh air and our fellow pilgrims.  We hadn’t let go of the Camino just yet or it could be that the Camino hadn’t let us go! December 2016 found us booking our flights for Madrid.   It was set! We would be walking the Camino in May of 2017!  This time around, it would be my husband, sister and me on the Camino.

There was much debate about which section we should walk and how long we should go for.  Unfortunately, we did not have enough days to complete the whole walk from Pamplona to Santiago.  I pitched the plan for doing the last 300km of the Camino from Leon to Santiago. I said that maybe if we reach Santiago, we can stop obsessing over the Camino and finally plan a trip elsewhere.

In 2016, we had only walked the first 67km of the Camino Frances in 4 days.  This time we were aiming to walk 5 times that distance in only two weeks. But we convinced ourselves that we would give it a try.  We had forgotten all the pain from our first Camino. We could only remember how beautiful the Pyrenees was and all the amazing people that we met. Also, it didn’t hurt that Air Canada was having a sale for direct flights from Toronto to Madrid for $600.  It seemed that the universe was conspiring for us to go on this trip. So it was decided, we would be walking the Camino in May from Leon to Santiago

walking the Camino in May - Schedule

walking the Camino in May – my sister loves calendars and spreadsheets, this wasn’t really a schedule more like a guideline

Schedule:

  • May 3: Fly Toronto to Madrid
  • May 4: Land in Madrid and bus to Leon
  • May 5 – 18: Walk the Camino
  • May 18 – 19 : Explore Santiago
  • May 20: Train to Madrid
  • May 21-22: Enjoy Madrid and celebrate with Chocolate con Churros!

Preparation:

For our May Camino we took the time and effort to prepare ourselves.  We watched an extensive list of YouTube videos of other pilgrims and bought John Brierly’s  ‘A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago‘. John Brierly’s guidebook gives a detailed day by day account of the stages of the Camino. For each day, you will be given a map of the route, elevation changes, locations of fountains, and places to stay. While on the Camino it became our routine to study it at night, in preparation for the next day. If you’re thinking of buying John Brierly’s book, make sure to get the latest edition.  It will have an updated list of the albergues.  We waited until Jan 2017 to buy our copy.

walking the Camino in May

John Brierley a Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago

Next on our prep list was to gear up.  I bought an Osprey backpack, which I swore I wouldn’t do. But everyone was doing it, so I got one too.  Throughout the winter, we made multiple trips to the Mountain Warehouse Outlet store.  We bought rain coats, rain covers, hiking pants, hiking socks and other hiking gear.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so meticulous about packing, everything was weighed and items were added then removed. In the end, both my sister’s and my backpack weighed in at 12 lbs. My husbands’ pack weighed 17lbs.

camino backpack

backpack later replaced with Osprey

We tried to prepare for the walk by doing short hikes on the weekend or walking home from work, approx. 16 km. But nothing could really prepare us for 300 km on the Camino. There was no going back, our schedule was set and our bags were packed. We would be walking the Camino in May.

YouTube Suggestions for planning your Camino:

One of our favourite camino Lady to watch is Lindsey Cowie.  She has amazing packing tips and has done several camino routes.

Our favourite Camino Guy is Hank Leukart. Loads of entertainment value and gives you a good idea of what you can run into on the Camino. I also like his video on Nepal’s 3 passes Trek.

Walking the Camino in May : Leon to Santiago

Our first time on the Camino was in October 2016 and we had amazing weather for all 4 days. We didn’t get a drop of rain and our days were filled with sunshine. We also had a wonderful breeze keeping us cool as we crossed over the Pyrenees. I had no major problems with my feet and not one blister. We were very lucky!

Camino de Santiago.

admiring the view on the Pyrenees on our first Camino

On our second time on the Camino, we had all sorts of weather and complaints.  There was rain on our first day, blistering hot sun as we arrived in Ponferrada, hail in Villafranca and more rain going up and down O’Cebreiro. Not to mention, my hip started hurting after the second day.  I got a blister on my toe.  My ankle swelled up and I got a giant bruise on the side of my feet from I don’t even know what. It sounds like a nightmare.  But looking back, I wish I could do it all over again.

Pilgrim of the Camino

Pilgrim of the Camino rain or shine

One of the highlights from this Camino was the panoramic views on Cruz de Ferro in the province of Leon.  Cruz de Ferro is the highest elevation on the Camino at 1,500 metres. On the walk down from the peak, we were surrounded by views of blooming flowers with the mountainside covered in splashes of pink, purple and yellow. Despite the pain in my knees and the blister that was developing on my feet, this was one of my favourite moments on the Camino.

What is the Camino

The second highlight was the hike up to O’Cebreiro in the province of Galicia. It was an overcast rainy day and we welcomed the cool breeze. Our optimism slowly faded as we climbed up. By the time we got to La Faba, we were exhausted and the vegetarian Albergue we were hoping to stay at was fully booked. We continued walking up to Laguna la Castilla and were devastated when they said the Albergue was also full. We hadn’t planned to go all the way to O’Cebreiro that day. But that was where we ended up.

The hardest days are always the most rewarding. I can’t even describe how I felt as we turned the corner and realized we had made it to O’Cebreiro. The views of the mountain were incredible but the site of those cylindrical houses in O’Cebreiro was breathtaking. It meant that I could finally take off my shoes and change into some dry clothes.

Walking the Camino in May - O'Cebreiro

arriving at O’Cebreiro

What did I learn from walking the Camino in May?

I learned that you should be prepared to experience all sorts of weather. The way I see it, half the battle is in your mind, a quarter of it is in your body and the last quarter is in those Taxi signs scattered all over the Camino. Also, remember if things get tough just keep going.  It only takes one step at a time to reach your destination.

Confucius says – “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

Walking the Camino in May

Please stay tune I’ll be writing more about our days on the Camino in the coming week. If you’re planning on going on the Camino, I’ll be sharing details on where we stayed and what you can expect in the different stages of the Camino. Thx for visiting!


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